Junior Nation Sleeps Peacefully In Atlanta

Brian west@@brian3daleCorrespondent IMarch 6, 2010

ATLANTA - MARCH 05:  Crew members push the #88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, driven by Dale Earnhardt Jr., on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 5, 2010 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images

 All is right in Junior Nation.

 Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the #88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet rolled into Atlanta Motor Speedway and showed everyone what their made of. As evening fell and the track cooled, Jr. went out and not only put the #88 on the pole, but did it with the fastest lap ever recorded in the COT. I guess he can drive these things.

 During his post-qualifying interview, Junior looked as excited as I've ever seen him, handing out praise to everyone involved in the preparation of his car. Maybe there is something to all of Rick Hendrick's "doing whatever it takes" talk we've all, including myself, been so critical of.

 Mark Martin and Dale Jr. share the same building in the sprawling HMS complex, and as I've written before, maybe it's finally starting to help. It's been reported that this car, this Atlanta car, is one of the first, that Lance McGrew has built from the ground up. If this is indeed the case, then maybe this is the turning point Junior Nation has been waiting for.

 He was one good bump from victory in Daytona, he got bitten by a bad axle in California, and some poor pit work in Vegas cost him a top 10, maybe even a top 5 finish. He hasn't seemed to let these results get to him. Sure, a win at Daytona would have been huge, but hey, that's racing.

 During today's final practice, Junior had one of the best 10 lap averages of anyone. Even the SPEED pit reporters, and Dick Berggren in particular had nothing but optimism for the #88 Chevy.

 Let's just hope that all goes well tomorrow for everyone involved. I, along with the millions of Junior Nation fans, will be pulling for that #88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet to be leading at the checkers. I also believe that everyone, even those that might not like Junior, will be happy to see him pull into victory lane.